"American Idol" -- How They're Keepin' it Fresh for Season 11

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Ryan Seacrest is taking on a bigger role as host -- and we love it.
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Ryan Seacrest is taking on a bigger role as host -- and we love it.

"American Idol" is back along with a slew of hopeful contestants - some talented and some delusional. The core components are all there - the judges, the golden tickets, the trip to Hollywood, and even the host, Ryan Seacrest.

But not everything's the same. Every year the producers tinker with the formula a little bit to keep it fresh and interesting. Here's a look at this year's "modifications."

Contestant Video Journals

Every year the producers choose a few contestants with especially moving stories to tell and video tape them at home, but this year some contestants are keeping their own video journals of their Idol experience, drawing the audience ever closer to the action.

10 Years and…Growing

Idol's been around so long now, some of the contestants literally grew up watching it. The first audition show of season 11 featured old home movies of contestants as adorable little kids singing along while their TVs blared AI in the background. In round robin style the exuberant hopefuls reminisced about their favorite idols of years past.

Emphasizing the Best Not the Worst

Traditionally the audition shows have been as much about laughing at the awful contenders as marveling over the great ones. Perhaps the judges are tired of having to sit through the most dreadful performances and then try to tactfully deliver the bad news. Or maybe we are tired of watching it (or at least the producers think we are).

Either way, there were only a couple of short segments on the off key, screechy and painfully inept singers in the entire two hour premier.

Focus has shifted to finding a wider range of interesting people stories to cover, including the Amy Brumfield who currently lives in a tent, Lauren Mink who works with "intellectually disabled" adults and David Leathers Jr., who can boast that he beat last season's idol winner, Scotty McCreery in a local talent contest.

What do you think of this season's idol? Have they spiced things up enough to hold your interest? Or could season 11 be Idol's last hurrah?

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